CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago man says he was wrongfully pulled over, handcuffed and thrown in jail dozens of times over 15 years — all because of his name and birthday.
And it keeps happening.
The Chicago Police Department could have taken steps to keep this from happening, but they didn’t, and he says it has ruined his life. He is now suing the city, hoping to make it stop.
Darren Cole’s lawyers say it would not have taken much, just a simple note in CPD’s computer system for one, which they failed to do over and over again.
“I felt like I was treated like a dog,” Cole said.
He is now 50 years old. For almost a third of his life, he said he has lived in fear that any time he got in his car Chicago police officers would pull him over, take out their guns and force him out of his vehicle.
He said it has happened to him 40 to 60 times.
“They even had a judge letter to come to my job and have me locked up for the warrant,” he said.
He is talking about an outstanding, almost 20-year-old warrant for another man with the same name and birthdate from a downstate county.
“The guy who got the warrant is named Darren H. Cole. My name is Darren Cole. That’s it. No middle name,” he said.
This Darren Cole was first pulled over near Jackson and Washtenaw in 2006. Subsequent stops happened all over the city, often resulting in Cole being thrown into the District 11 lockup for hours. He is afraid to drive his car and still carries around a stack of papers, including a note from a CPD sergeant, showing he is not the Darren Cole police want. He has repeatedly asked police to update their records to stop the stops, but nothing changes.
“I think it is indicative of the Chicago Police Department’s blatant disregard for the safety and security of Chicagoans,” said Cole’s attorney Daniel Massoglia.
Massoglia is one lawyer now representing Cole in his federal civil rights lawsuit. He said CPD could have taken many steps to correct the situation, including putting a note in their computer system instead of putting the onus on Cole to do it. His attorneys even sent a letter to city lawyers in January.
“Just trying to get something done beforehand and just radio silence,” Massoglia said.
“I lost my family,” Cole said. “I lost my house.”
And he says the whole ordeal almost cost him his life.
“I went down to the river, down to the lakefront a lot of times, and I was thinking about jumping because I thought I lost it all, because everybody was telling me ain’t nothing they could do. You know what I’m saying? God just told me like this: ‘Don’t give up,’” Cole said.
A spokesperson for CPD said it does not comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson for the city’s law department said they have received the complaint and are reviewing it.
Massoglia said Cole’s team will file a motion asking that immediate steps be take to correct this situation even before the lawsuit progresses. Cole was never charged with anything after any of his stops.